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  Sexual Discrimination – Shaking Hands!
By Sonya Buck, Australia


There is lot of talk about sexual discrimination and how things have improved over the past few decades.


I’m so glad we’ve moved on from the eighties when in my old workplace I remember a man would not shake my hand, but didn’t think twice about shaking my male colleagues’ hands.


You do still hear instances of women being dismissed for being pregnant and organisations which still have ‘boys clubs’ and   I suppose old habits die hard.


Every now and then a news story surfaces about not having enough female representation in management roles and sitting on Board of Directors and there are studies underway to make improvements.  Certainly, ability, experience and merit should be a key factor when hiring both women and men and it would be unacceptable if mandatory quotas were introduced to even up these numbers.


Being in the Agricultural industry we aren’t immune to adhering to the different workplace laws and acts which apply to other industries.


The Australian Human Rights Commission clearly states:


The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (SDA) makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person because of their sex, gender identity, intersex status, sexual orientation, marital or relationship status, family responsibilities, because they are pregnant or might become pregnant or because they are breastfeeding”


In Agriculture there are areas where you may inadvertently be in breach of the act with examples including:


  • Not hiring a woman because the employer thinks she won’t fit into a ‘traditionally’ male workplace
  • Not paying a woman the same salary as a man for doing the same work, or not providing the same opportunities for training, mentoring or promotion
  • Allocating work tasks based on a person’s sex.


I’m sure we all know women that work just has hard or even harder on farm than their male counterparts and shine in their place of work.


Thank goodness times have moved forward from the days of the sixties where the women’s movement advocated women burning their bras in protest to obtain equal rights.


Antidiscrimination as it relates to sexual discrimination is not a difficult concept. What everyone now expects is just level of fairness, particularly in the workplace.


There are some great fact sheets on the Australian Human Rights Commission web site which will assist you to comply with the current acts and please continue to ‘shake hands’ with all your business contacts.